Schultz v. Tilton

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Habeas Corpus
  • Date Filed: 10-27-2011
  • Case #: 09-55998
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Per Curiam Opinion: Circuit Judges Goodwin and Wardlaw, District Court Judge William K. Sessions III United States District Court for the Southern District of Vermont, sitting by designation
  • Full Text Opinion

A jury instruction which allows a jury to consider a defendant’s prior bad acts if found by a preponderance of the evidence, does not misstate the prosecutor’s burden of proof.

In Schultz’s trial for committing lewd acts with minors, the prosecutor introduced evidence of uncharged acts by Schultz against two other minors. Schultz was found guilty. At issue is a jury instruction, which stated that the uncharged acts need only be found by a preponderance of the evidence, however, the prior acts are not sufficient to prove the current crimes beyond a reasonable doubt. Schultz filed a petition for habeas corpus, contending that the instruction misstated the prosecution’s burden of proof allowing him to be convicted by a preponderance of the evidence rather than beyond a reasonable doubt. The district court denied Schultz’s petition and he appealed. The Ninth Circuit held that the statute which allows for the above jury instruction does not suggest that a “jury could reasonably convict a defendant for charged offenses based merely on a preponderance of the evidence”. The Court found that the instruction was unambiguous and made clear that Schultz could only be convicted if all of the evidence as a whole proved him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Finally, the Court found that the instruction cautioned that if the jury found by a preponderance of the evidence that the prior acts were committed, Schultz could only be found guilty on the evidence as a whole, beyond a reasonable doubt. AFFIRMED

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